Artwork for podcast Si Yo Fuera una Canción (If I Were a Song)
Kahlo Quinn (Original, English)
Episode 916th July 2021 • Si Yo Fuera una Canción (If I Were a Song) • Elisabeth Le Guin
00:00:00 00:36:00

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Interviewed just before leaving home for college, Kahlo tells us about her upbringing in the social-justice movement, and reflects on how love might triumph over hate.

BIBLIOGRAPHY AND LINKS

Emma’s Revolution

 FaceBook page: https://www.facebook.com/emmasrevolution/ 

CodePink website: https://www.codepink.org/

Maren Morris: https://www.marenmorris.com/ 

Colson Whitehead

The Nickel Boys. New York: Doubleday, 2019 

Los chicos de la Nickel. Trad. Luis Murillo Fort. Nueva York, Random House, 2020


Martin Luther King

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness…”

The quote appears in his book, Strength to Love, New York: Harper & Row, 1963


please do not buy from Amazon. Use an independent bookseller, like:

powells.com 


You can also hear a version of this philosophy in this sermon: video https://vimeo.com/24614519

The sermon is based upon The Bible, Matthew V: 43-45

[43]” Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.[44] But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;[45] That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.”

Transcripts

INTRO

Greetings and welcome to our latest episode of “Si yo fuera una canción” -- “If I Were a Song.” We are a community-based podcast and radio show, in which people of Santa Ana, California, tell us in their own words about the music that means the most to them.

I am Elisabeth Le Guin, your program host, and Director of this project. This project is based on my conviction that we people in the modern – or postmodern?-- world need to learn to listen to one another; and that music, and all it brings us, is the perfect place to begin.

she left Santa Ana in August:

th of August,:

KQ: All right. Thank you for having me. My name is Kahlo Quinn. I am 18 years old. And my preferred pronouns are she, her, hers. And what brought me to Santa Ana is -- I used to live in Chicago, but when I was eight, my parents brought my brother and I out here because of their work. And so I've been living here ever since.

ELG: So, you've been here over half your life. Ten years.

KQ: Yeah. Basically, I feel like it's kind of like I have a decade in each "chapter," and then I kind of move on to a new place or thing or, you know, that's kind of how it goes!

ELG: Yeah, yeah, yeah. And, and I know you're right at the point of the next move, which we'll talk about in just a second.

KQ: Yeah!

ELG: But I want to start with my three questions. So, here's the first. Where are you from? And remember, you can answer this in any sense that you wish; it can be physical and literal, or it can be more metaphorical.

KQ: Yeah. So, I mean, like I said, I'm from Chicago, Illinois, in a more physical, literal sense. But also, I kind of took this question in the sense -- and kind of how I chose my song through it -- is, I'm from, you know, a very loving and safe and supportive, happy family. I was raised in a very social-justice oriented upbringing. Just, that's how my family was, and that's really developed who I am. So that's, that's kind of where I'm from, I guess.

ELG: Feel free in this context, if you want to just share with us what the next chapter is looking like at the moment?

KQ: Yes. So my next chapter is starting very soon. I'm leaving in a little bit more than a week to go to Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. -- So I think my hope, especially during this time, because it is such a crazy time with a pandemic and just, you know, really everything that's happening with our president and just in the world, it's really... There's a lot going on. And so starting this new chapter, kind of my hopes is to just remember that there is good in the world and that there's love in the world. And you know that it's these new chapters that kind of remind us of why we're living and why we keep going.

And so I think in that new chapter, I'm just trying to, just, keep moving and... But also look, you know, look at the world from a different place and in a different chapter. So...yeah.

ELG: Wow. I feel your excitement. I can feel it coming across the line.

KQ: I love it. I know, I'm super excited. It's actually cool because I feel like... I mean, I listen to music all the time and it's such a part of my life, but I've never been the kind of person to like, when someone's like, "Oh, what's your favorite artist?" And things like that, I always have trouble. I'm like, "I like all music," you know?

But I really enjoyed this challenge of kind of pinpointing just two songs that, you know, represent certain things for me. So I'm excited to delve deeper into them.

ELG: Good! I'm so glad.

INSERT #1:

Kahlo’s first song is called “Code Pink,” and is performed by the group, Emma’s Revolution.

[song clip] “Code Pink”

ELG: Thank you for introducing me to this song and to this group, which I didn't know about.

KQ: Yeah!

ELG: So maybe tell me a little bit about how this music came into your life initially, and then, of course, the meat of the question, how does this, for you, represent where you come from?

KQ: I...I really chose this song, I feel, because where I'm from, like I had mentioned before, I really came from a home that was very... was very guided in that social justice outlook. And so I was brought to many protests, many events like the one run by SOA Watch. And I could just go and be in a wagon and eat the snacks at the kids' tables and color, and hear amazing music like this [ELG laughs] and sing along without really knowing what it was about, you know?

I was just a little kid running around, going to sing-alongs with groups like Emma's Revolution and singing these songs at the top of my lungs, but not really thinking about, like, "Why am I here? What are they actually singing about?" So... And then I could go home a couple of days later, or right after a protest, and not to worry anymore.

So I think that's kind of why I chose this song. Like, it's such a cool song, like it has such a good beat to it and there's so much passion in it. And so it can really pull in a kid who's five, six or seven, over the years. But not... I didn't have to really understand all the people and the events that they were bringing up in it.

ELG: Right. Right…I wonder, maybe would you like to just very quickly explain what the SOA Watch is for listeners who might not know?

KQ: Yeah, so the School of the Americas is a place, a school in Georgia that trains a lot of the …it's a military training group, that trains a lot of individuals who then are sent to then militarize places internationally where they're not welcome. And also, they've killed many, and it's just really a horrible group.

So, this event is like almost a week long in Georgia, protesting outside of the School of the Americas, in which people come together to remember those who have been killed by individuals who are trained through the school, and also to bring peace to the surrounding area and spread ways in which people can go away and have peace and, umm... So that's why amazing groups like Emma's Revolution comes about, because they're... the words in their music really shares how to bring peace and what groups to join with in order to stop groups like SOA.

ELG: So, and so you're telling me that when you were brought to these protests as a child, that groups like Emma's Revolution would actually do singalongs for the children who were there while their parents were protesting?

KQ: You know, there were main protests, the main venue. But then there were kind of places and events surrounding the main stages and things like that in which there were activities for children to get involved and to start reflecting at a young age, like, "What is our role in all of this?"

And so, yeah, it was kind of an escape because it's definitely more upbeat and a lot more smiles and tambourine shaking, and less holding crosses and marching together. So I think that also, it also fostered... While others were in more intense breakout groups, I was in the sing along, with groups like this. Which is amazing…

ELG: This is definitely a singalong type of a song. It's got that kind of swing to it and, and the repetition of the word "Code Pink," all the way through. You know, you can imagine kind of pumping your fist in time to it, hitting a tambourine or whatever, whatever it may be. But -- what does the phrase mean, in the context of what this group was doing with it?

KQ: Yeah. So recently I looked up the the name "Code Pink" because the music came back recently to me. And when I searched up, there's a group called "Code Pink," actually that works doing women's rights, looking at militarization and people's rights with regards to that. And so, kind of like how we said, like, "Code Pink for freedom, Code Pink for peace, Code Pink for women..." They do a lot.

ELG: Yep, here it is, here's their website, comes right up. "Code Pink, a women-led grassroots organization working to end US wars and militarism, support peace and human rights initiatives, and redirect our tax dollars into health care, education, green jobs and other life affirming programs."

So here it is right on the Web and in the website. I'll make sure to provide a link to them. So, it's actually a direct reference to -- not to a metaphorical concept but to an actual group that's doing work in the world.

KQ: Mm-Hmm!

INSERT #2:

About Emma’s Revolution & Code Pink

Emma Goldman, who lived from:

In fact, there is no record of Goldman saying those words, but w she did say in this vein is also worth quoting: "I did not believe that the Cause … should demand the denial of life and joy…I want freedom, the right to self-expression, everybody's right to beautiful, radiant things."

albums since in:

th of September,:

ELG: This song has really got its feet on the ground! It's very…it's plugged into actual events and it's calling out a group that really works with those events. And yet it's also, just, musically, you know, you mentioned it's got a great beat. And it does, it's got that wonderful kind of swinging back-beat that just makes you want to kind of bob your head and, and sing along if you know the words, and... So it's a pretty effective piece of political art.

KQ: Definitely. Yeah.

ELG: Yeah. I want to ask you one more question about it.

KQ: Yeah.

ELG: So, I could imagine someone listening to you talking about being a pretty small child brought to these protests and participating in these activities designed for children at the protest site, thinking, "Whoa, this is heavy duty brainwashing!" And, you know, this is an uncomfortable truth about music. You yourself said, you know, that you didn't necessarily -- when you first learned this song and when it was a part of your experience at these protests -- you didn't necessarily know what they were singing about, nor did you care! But the song got kind of woven into your consciousness and became a part of who you are, if you will. And it does have these words, and it does have an explicit political message. And... someone who had a different viewpoint on the world than the one that is represented by the SOA protests might feel really, really uncomfortable at hearing your story about this.

KQ: I mean, definitely! I think it is definitely interesting to have music that is so specific. It's like reading an article, but hearing it through a tune. And yeah, it's interesting then to grow up and to think about, I mean, this is the music I used to listen to and there's probably many other people in my life that would not listen to or agree with this kind of music. And it's interesting to look at art in that way. That someone would disagree with a piece of art? You more think of, someone would disagree with a policy, or someone would disagree with a person -- but not necessarily a song.

And so, it is interesting to grow up and then to realize, you know, everything that you did is completely different than what a lot of other children did or listened to, or...

ELG: Yeah, yeah. You really put your finger on it there. Yeah. How can you disagree with a song? And particularly one as well sung and performed and put together as this one. I mean it's just got that great swing to it... And I noticed in listening to it, you know, they don't sound angry. There's some force, there's some edge to their voices, but they actually sound friendly and upbeat and positive through the whole song, which is kind of striking, given the content of the lyrics.

KQ: Yeah.

ELG: And, yeah. How do you disagree [with] that? And the basic message of the song is, you know, let's get rid of war and hate. And honestly, no one in their right mind disagrees with that. It's just a question of, "How shall we do this?"

KQ: Yeah.

INSERT #3: “Would someone disagree with a work of art?”

It is a fundamental principle of Romanticism that Art (with a capital A) must be pure, looking beyond the details of life; above all, that it not lend itself to political ends; it must be “disinterested” or else somehow, it’s not “really Art.” This “real Art” will supposedly raise us to an ideal place where disagreement doesn’t apply. I think it’s from this that Kahlo’s question comes.

But many artists know that during most of human history art has simply been the best tool available for expressing, elaborating, understanding and strengthening the particular positions and viewpoints inhabited by the artists. And so art (small “a”) can very naturally enter into partisan argument. In fact, I’d say it is nourished by disagreement.

From this less idealist perspective, art that pretends to be disinterested frequently reveals itself as a covert attempt to strengthen the established, dominant order. However, this perspective also opens the door to the possibility that there is no such thing as “eternal Art” nor “universal” artistic values.

Kahlo’s question is very important for all of us who value or practice art in any form. Instead of trying to answer it definitively, I think the important thing is to keep asking it—perhaps with a twist: “When should we disagree with a work of art?”

ELG: And actually, this makes a really super cool transition to your second song. I have to say, the songs are connected in many ways, they're kind of thematically connected, I think. But your second song, the one that points toward your hopes for the future, it takes such a different approach. It really... It speaks to exactly this question about how art inserts itself into politics, and the role that things like songs have in a world where life and death decisions must be made, you know?

So with your permission, why don't we go directly to the next song, and then maybe we can kind of pick up this thread afterwards and talk it through a little bit more fully, with reference to your second song.

KQ: Yeah, that's great.

ELG: So here is "Dear Hate."

SONG CLIP Maren Morris and Vince Gill, “Dear Hate”

ELG: I'm particularly grateful for you introducing me to this song... I feel like there's many moments, driving down the 405, listening to the news, and all the dreadful things coming at me from the news, and feeling like I can't escape them in my little metal box of a car, and feeling something that points toward despair. And the song just really addresses that, so deftly, so nicely. So -- tell me a little bit about how you came to this song, this particular song?

KQ: Yeah. So I…I was able to hear her in Joshua Tree, at this really cool restaurant called Pappy and Harriet's. And so, my mom, my dad and I, we went to the concert there. It was an outdoor concert in the nighttime, just super cool, like, like in the desert. It was just, probably the best concert I've ever been to! And she started to sing this song, and everyone just went quiet. And just, it's so fitting to any time and place.

I mean, it definitely has -- like the last song, it has specific events and things listed in it. But it just, it was so powerful how hearing it live, but just hearing her message and... Just really beautiful, just really strong storytelling in it. So that was a really amazing introduction to it, I feel.

ELG: That's pretty amazing. I just imagine sitting out, and, you know, the stars are twice as many and twice as big up there.

KQ: Oh, totally.

ELG: Yeah. Well, even, you know, even over my little computer speakers, it's just, it's got a kind of a magic to it for sure.

KQ: Oh totally. And, and so I think that just as I start in my next step, going to college in the Fall, and just with everything going on -- I mean, there is a lot of hate around us, right now, a lot of conflict and a lot of sadness, that I think it really sneaks up on us in different ways and it's all-encompassing.

And just like you said, when you're listening to it in your car and you can't really escape it, I almost feel like we can't really escape it, even if we're outdoors, like in an open space. And so I think as I move forward, I, I've had to find myself kind of taking deep breaths and really remembering how lucky I am and all the love that I have in my own life, and also just all the love that's coming out of all these hard times, the different movements, and people coming together to care for each other. So I feel like this song is just very...while it hit me emotionally two years ago when I felt very worry-free in the middle of the desert, I feel like it hits you even more when there's actual hate around you. And so, when choosing the song for this specifically, just hearing it again, I was like, “it adds clarity to your life.” But also it's just a beautiful song to listen to.

ELG: It is really a beautiful song. Yeah, it just lays it out there, but in such a gentle, resonant kind of a way. The title: you know, when you told me what your two songs were, I'm like, "Dear Hate," what the heck? You know? I heard the song several times, and I was like, OK, I get it. Let's talk for a minute about that title. I mean, I'm just interested in what you think about that title.

KQ: Yeah... It's definitely interesting. I mean, I always find, like, "Dear" to be such a kind word. So I feel like it's also shows a kind approach to...

ELG: Exactly.

KQ:...the idea of hate. Like, you know, “You've done a lot of horrible things, but I'm still going to be civil and say, ‘Hey, dear Hate, even though you've led to the end of many lives, and...’" --it's definitely kinder than it could be. But--I don't know! [laughs]

ELG: You're definitely pointing in the direction that I had been thinking about it. I just brought --you know, I thought about it for a few minutes and it brought me back to Dr. King's famous phrase. "Darkness cannot drive out darkness. Only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate. Only love can do that." And it seems to me it's almost like a direct reference to that very, very famous quote. And it's like, if you're going to take on hate, which is a big proposition, this is the way to do it.

KQ: Yeah, yeah.

ELG: And it's not the easy way. You know, to live up to that phrase? You know, not many of us can manage it all the time, but a song like this is can almost be an anthem for that effort. I don't know if you read much fiction, Kahlo, but I read a book recently, it's called "The Nickel Boys," it's a novel by an African-American author named Colson Whitehead.

KQ: Uh huh.

ELG: And he takes on that very phrase. It's fiction, so he takes it on through his principal character, who, growing up African-American in the South in a certain period, and with all that entailed, comes across recordings of Dr. King's sermons, and he hears that phrase, and he takes it into his heart. And, in the end, he can't really live up to it, and that's part of what the novel is about, is just how hard that really is. When hate is coming directly at you, to meet it with love, just how difficult that really is.

The novel is a rough ride. But it also really makes you think about this, that it's one thing to repeat that beautiful quote and another thing to really live it, I think.

INSERT #4 – “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that…”

o Love,” first published in:

Colson Whitehead’s novel, The Nickel Boys, has received much-deserved recognition and won a number of national awards. It recounts fictional events at a non-fictional place, the Arthur G Dozier School for Boys, a so-called “reform” school in Florida where boys were abused, tortured, and murdered for generations before it was finally closed down less than ten years ago. Mr Whitehead has said he felt compelled to tell this grueling story to contribute to urgent national processes of reckoning with our histories of abuse and oppression.

It is pretty clear that the author himself doubts the possibility that Dr King’s “third way” can prevail against the kind of entrenched, systemic hatred that has made atrocities like the Dozier School possible. And indeed, it would be naïve not to recognize that the likelihood of love overcoming hate in this world is slender at best. In the end the question of how to face hatred is one that every individual must resolve for themselves; and resolve it, not once and for all, but every day, many times, and on many levels. As Kahlo was lucky enough to learn very young, music can help us maintain our resolve.

KQ: Definitely. And yeah, that's definitely... It's interesting because I think it's super easy, very easy to sing along to this song and sing along to -- even just going back to my first song choice, how easy it is to sing along to those songs. And that's what music does for you, you know. You can sing along to any song you want, but it's a matter of taking those messages and taking what they're urging you to do, or what they're trying to spread awareness about, and actually utilizing art in that way.

I feel as though I can get off pretty easy with seeing art for art, and not necessarily as a lesson. And so that's, that's one thing, that art is beautiful because I think it can kind of, you know, mesh or wedge itself into your life and to spread different ideas into you.

I listen to music a lot of the time just because it has a catchy phrase in it, or a beat that just gets you in the mood for a certain thing you're about to do or that you're in the middle of doing. But, but all music has a message and it has an intention. And it's such an amazing outlet to tell stories and share certain experiences that artists are having. If someone's saying a speech or you read an article that they wrote, I think music, it more easily comes into us and we're more easily convinced to listen to certain things; or more able to take it in. Especially nowadays where we're reading and writing and doing all these things and moving a hundred miles per minute. Our brains are all over the place! So I think it's, for me, it's easier because music so easily enters us. It's easier to let go of the message or the thing that they're trying, it's trying to teach us.

And so I think with how easy it is to say that quote by Dr. Martin Luther King, or to sing along to this song, it's definitely much harder to live it out because it is so easy to take in. I don't know if that made any sense.

ELG: Total sense. In fact, I'm just kind of flabbergasted at how beautifully you're putting one of the fundamental reasons that I have been a musician all my life, and that I'm also a scholar of music! You know, it is exactly this way that it enters into us so easily, as you say, and yet when the song is over: what comes next?

KQ: Yeah.

ELG: That's the tricky part, that's the tricky part. This song is definitely going to go on to my personal playlist, and one of the reasons for that, I think, is that when, you know, maybe you've decided to take on the implicit challenge of "Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that." Maybe you're trying to live your life that way, but it's hard and it gets you down sometimes.

KQ: Yeah...

ELG: A song like this can kind of just come in at a good moment and...and bear you up again, you know, it's got that kind of gentleness, a powerful gentleness, I guess I would say. Yeah. Thank you so much for introducing it to me.

- Well, all right. Well, what a beautiful interview. Thank you so much, Kahlo.

KQ: Thank you so much. It's so, it's so special to hear your perspective on certain songs, on the songs that I shared. I mean, there's so much music out there, right? And that you live with day to day. And I feel as though both of those songs, it was easy to kind of decide, "OK, yeah, this is what it depicts." But just how beautiful, how you're able to take it further. With both of these songs, I'd never thought about it in the way that you had prompted me to think about it before. So I really appreciate that.

ELG: Oh, well, thank you. You just made my day! I mean, I suppose all those years at the university and everything, you know, they probably count for something! [both laugh] Well, I really sincerely appreciate that. Yeah, but, but, you know, this happens because we're having a conversation. I mean, I could write down my thoughts about the song and send them in an email and it would leave you cold. It's because we're actually sharing ideas that this works.

KQ: Definitely.

ELG:

There are few things more inspiring than talking to young people who are finding their words and their paths toward being strong, conscious, proactive people in the world. Right here is where I find my greatest hope.

Would you like to know more?

On our website at siyofuera.org, you can find complete transcripts in both languages of every interview, our Blog about the issues of history, culture, and politics that come up around every song, links for listeners who might want to pursue a theme further, and some very cool imagery. You’ll find playlists of all the songs from all the interviews to date, and our special Staff-curated playlist as well.

We invite your comments or questions! Contact us at our website, or participate in the Si Yo Fuera conversation on social media. We’re out there on FaceBook and Instagram. And then there’s just plain old word of mouth. If you like our show, do please tell your friends to give it a listen. And do please subscribe, on any of the major podcast platforms. We’ll bring a new interview for you, every two weeks on Friday mornings.

Julia Alanis, Cynthia Marcel De La Torre, and Wesley McClintock are our sound engineers; Zoë Broussard and Laura Díaz hold down the marketing; David Castañeda is Music Researcher; Jen Orenstein translates interviews to and from Spanish; Deyaneira García and Alex Dolven make production possible. We are a not-for-profit venture, currently and gratefully funded by the John Paul Simon Guggenheim Foundation, UCLA’s Faculty Grants Program, and the Herb Alpert School of Music.

For now, and until the next interview—keep listening to one another!

I’m Elisabeth Le Guin, and this is, “Si yo fuera una canción -- If I were a song…”

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